I Max Out a New Land Rover Defender and Take It Up the World’s Toughest Towing Test!

The good, the bad, and the powerful!

The all-new 2020 Land Rover Defender is a premium three-row SUV that has a focus on off-road adventures, but it is also rated to tow a maximum 8,201 lbs. So how does it tow? I load it nearly to the max and take it to the Ike Gauntlet™ – world’s toughest towing test!

Huge thanks to the Land Rover of Denver for making this towing test possible.

Land Rover Defender

This is a Defender 110 First Edition 400. What does this mean? It’s a four-door configuration with the most powerful engine option. The powertrain is a sophisticated combination of a 3.0-liter straight-six turbocharged gas engine and a 48-volt mild-hybrid electric system. The results is a butter smooth 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission.

Ike Gauntlet

The Ike Gauntlet™ is the world’s toughest towing test because it’s an 8-mile stretch of the I-70 interstate with a 7% grade that climbs to an elevation of 11,158 feet above sea level. If the Suburban can handle this extreme elevation, steep inclines, and rough pavement – then it can tow with confidence anywhere.

For this particular test, the goal is to max out the Defender’s capacity as close as possible. The total trailer weight is 7,500 lbs, including the Mercedes-Benz ML and all the tie-downs.

Downhill Performance

Stable and controlled downhill performance is very important. Safety is of paramount concern here, and we are looking for the truck or SUV that has superior transmission grade shifting and the large brakes to keep the heavy weights in check. The new 2020 Defender has giant and powerful brakes, but it does not have a built-in trailer brake controller.

I used a Prodigy RF remote control brake controller. It works well when you have one trailer and multiple vehicles that may tow it (like we do for our testing).

The Defender knows there is a trailer behind it. I configure the system properly. However, these is not a special tow/haul mode for the transmission. The transmission did not provide effective grade shifting to slow the SUV and trailer. I needed 13 brake applications to keep the downhill speed in control. This included using the transmission manual shifting mode. I recommend using the manual shifting mode when towing with the Defender. You can downshift, raise the engine RPM, and keep better control of the speed.

Still, the Defender 110 wheelbase, the suspension design, and the air springs provided a comfortable and stable ride with a heavy trailer in tow.

Uphill Performance

This power plant has SO MUCH power in reserve. The 7,500 lbs trailer did not phase the Defender during the climb. I used partial throttle and still was able to maintain 60 MPH, with additional passing power on tap. The straight-six engine delivers linear and smooth power, and the transmission is quick to shift.

The uphill performance was remarkably good.